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Updated: Mar 21, 2022

The job of a notary involves a lot of risks as there is always the fear of performing improper or illegal notarization. There are many situations where a notary should simply refuse to notarize the documents. As a notary, it is important to educate yourself on such situations.

Out of ignorance, if you do notarize the documents, you could end up in big trouble. Ideally, you should not notarize for the following cases:

Absence of signer

The presence of the signer is probably the most important aspect of notarization. This is because the identity of the signer needs to be verified before notarizing the document. If the signer itself is not present for notarization, it is best that you say no to the customer. Performing notarization in the absence of a signer will expose you to several problems and that is the last thing you want.

Problems with document

In many cases, the document submitted by the client is incomplete. In such cases, you cannot go ahead with notarization. When a notary puts his stamp on a document, he/she is essentially validating the document. If you validate an incomplete document, then you will be held responsible for it. If you find any discrepancy with the document submitted by your client, ask them to rectify the error or simply refuse to notarize the document.

Notarizing for relatives

There is a lot of debate around the morality behind notarizing for relatives and family members. While many states in the US don’t allow it, other states have left the decision on the notary. As a general principle, it is always best to avoid notarizing for relatives and family members. You should especially refuse to notarize if you have a financial interest in the notarization. Such cases can affect your credibility as a notary and lead to a conflict of interest.

Problems with the signer

There can be cases where the signer is mentally unfit. In such cases, you should avoid notarization until his mental health is not restored to capacity. In some cases, the signer cannot speak English. In such situations, a translator is required to facilitate conversation between the signer and the notary. However, if a translator is not available, then you should refrain from notarization.

Other cases

There are many more instances where you will need to use your judgment and experience as a notary to decide whether to notarize a document or not. You can always say no if you feel the signer is ignorant and does not realize the consequences of signing the document. Other cases include the signer being a minor, the signer being drunk or sedated, etc.


As a notary, you will come across many instances where you will have to trust your judgment. Even if there is a slight fear that something is wrong, you should say no. Trusting your judgment will take you a long way in this field of work. Moreover, if you have any doubts, you can always get in touch with other notary publics.


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